Various Artists ~ HausMo Mix Tape

Chicago’s Hausu Mountain has been in existence for over five years, spreading smiles as wide as that of its slightly frightening mascot.  Run by Doug Kaplan and Max Allison, the label has already released over 70 albums.  HausMo Mix Tape is its first collection, culled from across the board.  The compilation is abundantly happy; the first time I played it I couldn’t get through it, because it made me want to go outside and play (so I did).  While the weather isn’t warm yet, it’s easy to picture the tape occupying a boom box on a summer picnic bench as college students take a break from frolicking in a lake.

The compilation flows smoothly despite its breadth of timbres, which range from carefree 80s synth (D/A/D) to snarling electropop-industrial (Fire-Toolz‘ “All Deth Is U”).  Surprises emerge around all bends.  FIN‘s “Pike,” one of the few vocal tracks, sounds like a lost outtake from 4AD, but is followed by the jazzy lounge vibe of Quicksails‘ “The Compound Blues.”  Just as one starts to think of the label as retro-minded, one stumbles across an outlier such as TALsounds, whose “I Am Why” sounds like Holly Herndon accompanied by a Skull Island bass drum; or the 62 second witch doctor abstraction of BANG! BROS.’ “Smoked Artemix.”

The mastering ranges from pristine to purposely distorted, the timbres from Atari to Guitar Hero, but nearly every track is suitable for the dance floor.  We’d love to hear a mixed tape instead of a mix tape; there’s so much raw material to choose from, such a thing might become a club classic.

Nineteen tracks in, I said to myself, “That sounds like Brett Naucke!”  Guess what?  ‘Twas the man himself.  “Hallucinations I-V” is one of the set’s best selections, and should guide listeners toward the full tape, released last fall.  But this compilation invites listeners to engage even deeper.  Last month, Hausu Mountain also released three new artist albums.  One of these artists, Lockbox, is represented on the mix with a prior release.  Free VDV Prayer expands on his ideas of percussive madness.  This pretty purple tape beckons the head to nod, the feet to tap.  Highlights include the opener, “Peace On” and the winding, pounding “Chimera”.  A sense of humor is evident throughout, apparent in the title and spread across 21 tracks, one under a minute, one over eleven.  Another part of this batch is RXM Reality‘s Panic Cycle, which immediately honors its title with a 172 b.p.m. opener.  Sorry, kids, you’ll have to dance to every other beat.  The energy level never slows, although the densities vary from the thin (“Tiny Slips of Paper”) to the thick (“Under”), the music finally collapsing under its own weight.  Finally there is Arian Shafiee‘s Beauty Tuning, the shortest and most experimental of the three-pack, purposely avoiding traditional structures despite guest appearances by the violin and harp.  Just when we thought we had the label pegged, they flipped the script, a bold move which should see them well into their 100th release and beyond.  (Richard Allen)

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